Pryor: FCC ‘Fouled Up’ Spectrum Auction

Senate Commerce Committee Democrat Feels Federal Communications Commission’s 700-Megahertz Spectrum Auction Tilted Toward Verizon Communications, AT&T

Senate Commerce Committee Democrat Mark Pryor (Ark.) told broadcasters Tuesday that House and Senate members from both parties continued to be frustrated by Kevin Martin’s chairmanship of the Federal Communications Commission.

That message was delivered to a roomful of about 500 broadcasters at the National Association of Broadcasters' State Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. Those broadcasters are in town to meet with FCC officials and legislators.

In particular, Pryor called the 700-megahertz spectrum auction a disaster. “Maybe it’s always been this way,” he said of the commission. “But under [Martin’s] leadership, it seems particularly secretive, and he carries an agenda into their agenda.”

Pryor took particular issue with the structure of the 700-MHz auction. While it has drawn almost $20 billion in bids -- twice the amount it must return to the Treasury -- Pryor said the FCC “fouled up” the wireless auction. “History will show that the way the FCC structured the auction basically helped the two big wireless companies [Verizon Communications and AT&T] to the detriment of competition in this country,” he added.

Pryor said the FCC allowed Verizon and AT&T to outbid the smaller companies and “basically just control the auction after that.”